It’s official, after months of guesses and speculations, the details of Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and S8+ have been announced. Many of the revelations about the phones matched what I had predicted, but there were also some pleasant new revelations.
The first surprise was what a great job Samsung did on the new screen. It is not only curved like the Galaxy S7 Edge, but there is almost no bezel. Samsung therefore succeeded in increasing the screen real estate without increasing the size of the device. The uninterrupted glass front provides a smooth, continuous display surface which flows seamlessly into the aluminum shell. This screen is so spectacular that I can honestly say Samsung has, for the first time, really out-designed Apple.
In order to create this expansive screen, Samsung had to remove the physical home button. It is now found at in a pressure-sensitive zone at the bottom of the screen.
The second surprise was a new DeX dock which will instantly turn the S8 into a Desktop eXperience with a connected monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This is a feat that others like Microsoft and Motorola have been trying for years to accomplish. Although the demo looked excellent, the proof will be in everyday use. Also in the number of apps that DeX will support. Samsung has already partnered with VMWare, Citris, Amazon, and Microsoft (Office Suite) and they continue to add more partners. If DeX can supply a good desktop experience and the price is right, it could be a great selling point for the Galaxy 8.
The S8 and S8+ will have three types of biometric authentication: fingerprint, iris, and facial. The iris scanner on the front of the S8 should let you unlock the phone faster than a fingerprint scanner would. The fingerprint sensor, which may not even be necessary, will be on the back of the phone.
We now have a clearer understanding of whether or not Bixby can save Samsung. This new voice assistant goes up against Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Assistant. Bixby will have a female voices, but like Siri will be able to be changed to a male voice.
There will be a dedicated button on the side of the phone to launch Bixby. Although Bixby seems to have more contextual understanding, she is obviously a work in progress. For some apps, your voice will be able to do anything a tap or a swipe can do. Hopefully, more apps will be Bixby-enabled in the future.
Bixby will learn and adapts as you use it. By knowing your location, habits, and time of day, she should be able to give you help in many different situations. Bixby will work with the phone’s camera to help identify things that you point the camera at. It will also enable you to purchase some items it sees.
Unfortunately, Samsung’s initial implementation of Bixby falls a little short of being a spectacular assistant. But there is certainly more to come.
In the near future Bixby will be able to control Samsung Home devices and to that end Samsung will launch a mesh router called Samsung Connect Home that will help Bixby interact with the Samsung SmartThings ecosystem. If all goes well, Bixby will become a gateway to smart devices in the home.
In an unusual move, Samsung is also including the Google Assistant in the S8 and S8+. You will be able to summon her by holding down the home button.
Several things that made the S7 version so popular will be continued in these new models. They will include, 4GB RAM, 64GB of storage, IP68 waterproof and dust resistance, a microSD tray, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The 6.2-inch (15.75 cm) and 5.8-inch curved screens – the largest to date for Samsung’s premium smartphones. Both phones will ship with Android 7.0 Nougat.
The main cameras on both phones are the same as those in the S7 versions. This is okay, because they had the best cameras on the market. The only change here is that Samsung added an autofocus to the 8-megapixel selfie camera.
I was betting on some different colors and Samsung didn’t disappoint. The S8’s will come in Midnight Black, Arctic Silver, Maple Gold, Coral Blue, and Orchid Gray. All are metallic-looking giving the phones an upscale look. Not exactly the bright new colors that I was expecting, but all excellent choices.
The wireless charger will include a special arm that will prop up the phone so that you will be able to see the phone while it’s on the charger.
With Samsung Pay and Samsung Pass the S8’s will have a huge payment ecosystem. Samsung is also working with Visa to provide online payments from the phone.
Samsung Health will have “Talk to an Expert,” a feature that will let you talk to a doctor.
Two extras that stand out: Both S8’s will come with AKG earbuds Harmon Kardon and both will have Bluetooth 5.0.
The Galaxy 8 and 8+ will be available on April 21st. They will be available at AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Prices may vary slightly by carrier and payment plan but the Galaxy S8 will be around $720 and the S8+ will sell for $840.
The Galaxy S8 is the most important phone ever for Samsung. After the Note 7 recall, Samsung initiated an 8-step testing program, but users are still likely to be a bit skeptical.
While the features are enticing, after the Samsung Note’s fiery release last year, you can bet that a lot of people will wait a few months before committing to the S8. That will put Apple in even better shape for the release of their next iPhone this fall.